Beware of spoilers!!
For Game of Thrones fans, the phrase “All Men Must Die” has served as a brutal reminder that death is inescapable—whether the unlucky soul is a king, a knight, a hero (one of the few in Westeros) or a miscreant-turned-member of the Knight’s Watch.
But the prophetic phrase isn’t interpreted—at least by the ideologues among us—to include pre-teen girls being immolated at the behest of their fathers, or a revenge-fueled kiss of death planted on an innocent bride-to-be. Neither did we ever believe it justified enlisting a small boy, barely knocking on puberty’s door, to strike a dagger into a young man’s heart, effectively dealing the death blow (or so we’re led to believe).
Et tu, Olly?
Goodbye, Jon Snow. Farewell, Shireen. Good knowing you, however briefly, Myrcella.
The devastation heaped on characters in the recently completed season of Game of Thrones did not go unnoticed. Sure, our brains have become desensitized by the endless amount of gory films and gruesome shows on television, but the savagery this time around was intensely blood-curdling.
And it wasn’t only death that had us sleeping with one-eye open at night. There was enough other atrocities to go around, even if they didn’t involve spilling copious amounts of blood.
As we bid ado this season 5 of GOT, let’s take a brief look back at the ruin it unleashed.
This was gut-wrenching. Sansa Stark returns home to Winterfell after an incredibly distressing time in King’s Landing, only to be betrothed to the bastard Ramsey Bolton, a particularly hideous human who somehow found a way to supplant Joffrey as Westeros’ chief deviant—dead or alive.
And did we mention it was Ramsey’s father Roose Bolton who betrayed the Starks? (Recalling “The Red Wedding” still gives us chills.) Upon her nuptials, Sansa was brutalized once again, raped by her new husband while Reek, formerly known as Theon Greyjoy, was forced to watch. We did not see the chilling rape on screen, instead we witnessed the horrific attack through the eyes of Reek, a battered shell of the man he once was. Disgusted fans levied harsh criticism on the series’ creators, some going as far as threatening a boycott. It was yet another rape perpetrated by a power-hungry man in a show full of such wretched misogynists. How many more are we supposed to take? Revenge can’t come soon enough. The season ended with Sansa’s fate up in the air, so to speak.
Poor Shireen. I can still hear the pitiful child’s ear-splitting screams. Her cries for her father remain fresh in my mind, and may haunt GOT fans for seasons to come. Why, Stannis, why?
Well, we know why: Melisandre, seeking guidance from the Lord of Light, had prophesied that a human sacrifice—an individual with king’s blood, to be exact—would propel Stannis to victory in the battle for Winterfell. Stannis, consumed with Iron Throne glory, and bruised by the fiery cloak-and-dagger attack on his camp perpetrated by Ramsey, finally wilted. After a heart-warming exchange with her father’s trusted advisor, Davos, Shireen told her father that as his dutiful daughter she’d do anything to help him in his quest. She shouldn’t have. They hugged. He apologized. Then she was burned at the stake—her guttural cries falling on deaf ears. All for naught.
We finally got a glimpse of what winter looks like, and it’s nothing we’ve ever imagined. White Walkers, led by the Night’s King, descended on Hardhome, a Wildling camp north of the wall, and unleashed frozen hell on its inhabitants. The poor free folk had no chance.
Jon Snow, the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, provided the only silver lining, shattering into pieces a frozen demon with a swift slice of his sword, Longclaw, forged with Valyrian steel. Prior to this we were led to believe that only dragon glass could kill those awful walkers. That theory was expunged rather quickly, though it appears Westeros is going to need plenty of dragon glass if it has any chance of survival. Despite the small victory, the scene was horrific in its lopsided resolution. Hundreds of wildlings were murdered, only to be risen by the Night’s King as blue-eyed zombies, adding more bodies to the largest single army in the seven kingdoms.
The Sons of Harpy, an evil cult lurking in the shadows inside Mereen, massacred dozens of Unsullied and even took the life of Daenerys’ loyal adviser, Ser Barristan Selmy. He had fought valiantly alongside Grey Worm, the commander of the Unsullied who miraculously survived the vicious assault. The Sons of Harpy, a rebel group disguised in gold masks, sought to overthrow Daenerys’ rule by following up the slayings in the narrow streets of Mereen with a well-planned attack as slaves dueled in the fighting pit. If not for Ser Jorah, whom Daenerys had banished, she may have been a goner, because he defeated his rival and plunged a spear through a rebel about to murder her from behind. Things got worse for Khaleesi and the gang, Tyrion included, but their luck turned when Daenerys summoned Drogon—her fire-breathing savior. She rode off into the sunset—only to wind up surrounded by a horde of men on horseback who may not have her best intentions in mind.
“On, no. No! NOOOOO!!!” If I remember right, that was my reaction when Olly—Jon Snow’s earnest young steward, and now perhaps the second-most hated character on the entire show—lured the Lord Commander into a fatal trap. The gut-wrenching betrayal started with Olly storming into Jon’s private quarters and spewing a fake story about a Wildling possessing information about Jon’s lost uncle. Rushing outside, Snow ran right into an ambush, as one-by-one several members of the Knight’s Watch stabbed their commander with a dagger, each time telling him, “For the Watch.” Horrifically, it was Olly who dealt the final blow. Shades of Julius Caesar! Jon Snow fell to the ground as his thick blood flowed into the snow near a makeshift grave with a headstone reading “traitor.” Now we can only hope that one of the theories promoted by the books’ readers come true: that Snow is “warging” (like Bran) into his direwolf Ghost and will then be reborn with the help of the red witch Melisandre, who conveniently rode into Winterfell moments before the treacherous coup.
Oh, season 6 has so much to answer for.